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flag US - California - Full Moon 38 - 11/23/99

Glasgow Barrowlands, November 18th 1999

Steven Malkmus MUST have a Scottish grandmother. Not that I'm saying Scotland need another lo-fi midfield general, even one of the most experienced there is. It's just that Pavement, like the Scottish football team, swing between mediocrity and genius, having the occasional purple patch (although not for a while) and instilling nostalgia in their fans, and occasionally - occasially - showing flashes of their previous genius. Oh, and that the first thing they do onstage is to dedicate Platform Blues to outgoing Scottish international John Collins, another wayward talent who occasionally shows real flair.

The stage set looks like a slacker's Christmas come early with a cheap'n'cheezy Santa's Grotto appearance to the stage, all neon and dalglo. A lot has been made of Pavement's 'tightness' now in that they have learned to play their instruments, but a lot of this perception is down to everything being relative - from the kings of slacker lo-fi-dom a few years back, any improvement is going to make them seem like Genesis by comparison. But a Pavement gig shouldn't be remembered by the performance, but rather the setlist. Pavement's history has been patchy, blighted somewhat by the career-high of their first album proper, Slanted and Enchanted and any subsequent album has had this mark to make. They got closest to this on the last-but-one Brighten the Corners but again, we're back to mediocrity with Terror Twilight which only really stands out for some odd jazz noodlings and Bunnymen soundalike tracks. So frankly it doesn't bode well; the only thing that'll save this gig is a greatest hits setlist. And that is, kind of, what we get.

Nostalgia rules among the new stuff, which actually comes across surprisingly well, and Brighten the Corners is also represented with IKEA and Shady Lane, but it's mainly Slanted that's plundered and the audience can finally mosh with Trigger Cut and The Hexx, where Malkmus gives some decidedly Hendrix-y guitar work, playing the thing over his head. Happily, fire regulations prevent him from setting fire to it, and the Star-Spangled Banner isn't aired tonight, presumably as it would jeopardise the notion that the band are in fact from Easterhouse. Reinforcing this, the last song of the set is 'dedicated to Kevin Keegan' (to audience boos). "It's called Stop Breathin you sad fucker!" (cheers). Then the band get an almighty reception which spirits them back for encores, including Sinister Purpose originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival and a shambolic version of Devo's Whip It. When the house lights come on there are more boos from the crowd, who have just got in the mood for more.

So a workmanlike performance from Pavement gains them mass fan adulation. They might be well-meaning amateurs, but there's always that occasional flash of genius. But hopefully they're not retiring just yet - they've still got something left to offer.

Copyright © 1999 Stuart McHugh e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Pavement articles/reviews: Quarantine The Past: The Best Of Pavement, Scott says (by e-mail), The Secret History, Vol. 1.

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